Family Cinema Films

Family films to see at the cinema this week

Fancy a trip to the cinema, but don’t know what would be fun with the kids? Here’s our up-to-date guide of family films, written by Mike Davies especially with families and kids in mind. Everything from small scale films to great blockbusters for all the family!

Please note that not all 12A films are appropriate for younger children. Let’s Go With The Children offers a guide to what’s suitable for family viewing.

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Goosebumps 2: Haunted Halloween (PG)

Although Jack Black was the star of the original Goosebumps, in which he played a fictionalised version of R.L.Stine, the series’ creator,  this time around, not even appearing in the credits,  he only makes a fleeting appearance towards the end, but does provide the voice of psychotic ventriloquist dummy Slappy.

The film’s actual stars are mid-teens Sarah (Madison Iseman), her younger, electricity-obsessed video game geek brother Sonny (Jeremy Ray Taylor) and his best friend Sam (Caleel Harris), the latter both regular victims of the school bully.  When Sam sets up a business clearing unwanted junk, their pair wind up at Stine’s long abandoned house where they come across a locked book hidden in a secret compartment and, of course, open it.

Bad move. This was Stine’s first and still uncompleted story in which Halloween comes alive and, before they know it, Slappy has entered their lives and, rejected when he tries to become part of their family,  determines to create his own, including Sonny’s mother (Wendi McLendon-Covey), putting the town under a siege of Halloween spooks and monsters, including animating the giant purple balloon spider monster in the over-the-top Halloween themed garden of Sonny’s next door neighbour  (Ken Jeong).

So it’s up to the kids to get the monsters back into the book and shut down the old electricity generating tower built by Nikola Tesla, which Sonny has been trying to duplicate for his science project, and which is giving Slappy his power.

Far more fun than might be expected, the kids’ performances are more Goonies than Scooby-Doo, while director Ari Sandel handles the mayhem with energy and flair as well as delivering the central message about overcoming your fears.  90 mins.

LGWTC guidance:  An enjoyable trick and treat.


Smallfoot (U)

The first family animation for the fake news generation, Yetis, living atop the Himalayas, have been taught that the smallfoot (humans) doesn’t exist, it’s just something to scare the kids. But then Migo (Channing Tatum), who aspires to take over his dad’s job of being fired headfirst into a gong every morning to wake the giant snail (the sun) that crosses the sky, has an encounter when a plane crashes. Unable to prove what he saw, when he refuses to say he was imagining things, he’s banished from the village by the Stonekeeper (Common) for suggesting that the sacred stones – and everything the belief system is based on – are a lie.

However, with the help of a secret pro-smallfoot society, headed up by Meechee (Zendaya), the Stonekeeper’s daughter, he gets to travel below the clouds where he crosses paths with Percy (James Cordon), the presenter of a struggling TV nature show, and, as Migo takes him back to the village,  both see the other as their chance to prove themselves to their respective worlds. However, Percy’s presence forces the Stonekeeper to reveals some terrible truths about the history between men and Yetis, leaving Migo with the choice of staying true to what he knows or going along with the lie to keep his tribe safe.

Building to a chase involving humans and Meechee that would seem to confirm her dad’s worst fears, it’s reasonable enough cartoony fun for the kids, even if the story’s a touch repetitive. 96 mins.

LGWTC guidance: Smallfoot. Big ideas.

johnny english

Johnny English Strikes Again (PG)

When a hacker exposes all of MI7’s agents, the only way to track down those responsible is to recall one the retirees. After he accidentally eliminated the other candidates, the Prime Minister (Emma Thompson) has no choice but to assign the bumbling Johnny English (Rowan Atkinson), currently working as a geography teacher with a side-line in training his pupils in espionage techniques. Reunited with his loyal sidekick Bough (Ben Miller), he insists on going totally analogue, so they can’t be tracked.

Reprising his spy spoof character after a seven-year gap, there’s a little less slapstick this time round, but, even so, the film still finds plenty of room for Atkinson’s unique brand of physical comedy, including letting him loose on the London streets in a virtual reality headset and displaying his caffeine-high dance moves.

The screenplay’s frequently obvious and telegraphed, but, solidly supported by Miller’s ever reliable straight man and Thompson on comic form as the flustered and exasperated PM looking to put her own survival before the country, Atkinson’s mixture of accidental heroics, self-delusion, elastic expressions and perfect timing ensures that this is far more family friendly fun than some reviews would have you believe. 88mins.

LGWTC guidance: It’s a Fool English Breakfast.

clock film

The House With A Clock In Its Walls (12A)

Although the novel on which this is based was written in 1973, there’s a distinct touch of the Harry Potters about the way it looks. Unfortunately, that doesn’t extend to the storytelling. Directed by Eli Roth, who usually makes adult horrors, this is a scarefest for kids in which, his parents killed in a car crash, goggles-wearing nerdy 10-year-old Lewis (Owen Vaccaro) goes to live with his oddball Uncle Jonathan in his eccentric mansion. Discovering his uncle roaming the house at night, smashing the walls with an axe, having heard tales of a murder having happened there, he tries to flee. Which is when Jonathan reveals that he’s a warlock and his neighbour Florence (Cate Blanchett), with whom he trades insults, is a sorceress.

Now Lewis wants to learn magic too, all of which  eventually leads to the resurrection of Isaac Izzard (Kyle MacLachlan), an even stronger wizard who went to the darkside and plans to use magic to reverse time and destroy humanity. Now the trio have to find the ticking clock before it’s too late.

There are some strong moments, such as in battling killer pumpkins, but otherwise it’s all a bit thin and repetitive and the subplot about Lewis being bullied at school is clumsy and contrived. The design is impressively fantastical with the pet living armchair particular fun. The toys that come to life should scare younger kids into dropping their popcorn, but for a film about magic, the enchantment is lacking.  105 mins

LGWTC guidance: It needs winding up.

Not all 12A films are appropriate for younger children. Let’s Go With The Children offers a guide to what’s suitable for family viewing.